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A spark of Melissa's consciousness reawakened in the deep. The awareness bloomed like a birth, a first glimpse of the world before life unfolds. Then, the spark rose, crossing the depths and seeking air, seeking light. Things swam with her. Slimy. Cold. She hid from their fearful faces.
Melissa ripped upward. The momentum flung her high. She slowed at the peak of the arc, then plummeted. She slammed the ground, sank, then snapped back into the mist. A mist enveloped by night.
Her heart pounded, and she listened. The mist was breathing.
Melissa spun. Someone ran away into the milky dark. The pattering faded as distance swallowed the sound.
Someone ran again, from her left. The footsteps veered, then circled off in the same direction. She twisted to look, but saw only emptiness.
In the growing confusion, a third set of footsteps charged directly toward her. Hammering the ground. Melissa gasped. She stumbled backward. Squeezing her eyes closed, she raised up her hands.
The echo washed over her, through her. Then, their distinctness dwindled.
Melissa dared to open her eyes. The lights of her IV pump sparkled like rainbow stars. Nighttime blanketed her hospital room.
Melissa moved to sit up. Dull pain pulsed in her forehead. Nothing in her body responded. Then, like countless other times upon waking, she remembered. Yet again, she relived the moment of horrible realization. The accident. Her condition. The permanence.
A gentle snore startled her. Melissa looked down. Her mother was draped on the chair at the foot of the bed. Her mouth hung wide.
Strange. Melissa couldn't recall the day. She certainly couldn't recall why her mother wasn't at home.
Melissa stopped straining and returned to her usual retreat. The ceiling.
The sound gurgled out only for a moment before the respirator plowed it back into her lungs. She turned to run, like in her dreams, but her head was nailed in place. New footsteps were pressed into the spongy tiles. Deep and forceful. The tracks came from the doorway, bore down on her, and ended.
Something had come. And it had stood directly over her sleeping face.
On to Part 6
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